Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, (1 Peter 1:22-23)
Lord Jesus Christ, bring us to new birth in you. Lord, once again I give you the whole territory of my life; fill me anew with your Holy Spirit. Thank you.
Saturday: 20, 21:1-7(8-14) * 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117; Dan. 3:19-30; 1 John 3:11-18; Luke 4:1-13
Sunday: 148, 149, 150 * 114, 115; Dan. 4:1-18; 1 Peter 4:7-11; John 21:15-25
HC: 116 or 116:10-17; Acts 2:14a,36-47 or Isaiah 43:1-12; 1 Peter 1:17-23 or Acts 2:14a,36-47; Luke 24:13-35
Notes from the Front Line
***** Excerpt from Beyond Our Selves by Catherine Marshall, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1961, pages 49-53, 56
I wonder how many others there are who have thought of formal church membership as a substitute for that direct Father-child relationship that God really wants of us? No wonder much of our religious life today is plagued by vagueness. Let us not mistake it: Entering in does take childlikeness. The door through which we enter into Life is a low door. And sometimes it is the humble and the needy who can show the rest of us the way.
So a group of ministers recently discovered. One of them, Bruce Larson of Faith at Work magazine, told me this story. They had gathered for a two-day retreat at a church in New Jersey to discuss mutual problems and to pray about them. As so often happens, the discussion part predominated. It was late afternoon of the final day when a startling event occurred.
Suddenly the door of their meeting room opened and a stranger walked in. The minister of the host church know him, had seen him often around the neighborhood. Self-consciously the man seated himself at the fringe of the circle. Though there was no more than a momentary pause in the discussion, the experienced eyes of the other clergymen present took in the situation–the watery eyes, the sagging shoulders, the seedy clothing. Obviously the man was an alcoholic.
The discussion continued while the stranger listened. “it seems to me,” a crisp voice said, “that all we have been talking about these two days can be summed up in our need for God’s power–the kind of power that changes lives, heals restores that–”
He stopped, his attention arrested by the agitated movements o the stranger.
“That’s it! That’s what I need. I could use some of that.”
There was sudden silence. While everyone watched, his bleary eyes filled a bit more and the quavering voice continued.
“My name is Ernie. I drink too much. People have tried to help me…doctors, hospitals, clinics, missions, and all that. But I…I can’t seem to stop. How do I get this power you’re talking about?”
The question hung, quivering in the silence. Despite the fact that these men were experienced in dealing with people in need, the intrusion was embarrassing. There was a time schedule for the meeting, trains and planes to be caught, families to get back to, next Sunday’s sermons to think about. Closing time was at hand.
Finally, a white-haired man spoke up, “Ernie, all of us have problems too. It’s problem-filled world…” The voice of the elderly minister was gentle, suave, as he sought to identify with the stranger. All of the men know that the pastor who was speaking had had professional training in counseling.
“As to how we can get God’s help. Well, that isn’t always too easy. It takes patience, time. There are many roads to God, many avenues by which–”
“Damn!” The interruption was explosive, passionate.
The quiet of the room was suddenly being blasted by Ted, a young minister and a former businessman, anger and impatience written clearly on his face. Again and again he beat his fist down on the seat of the empty chair beside him.
“This man doesn’t want to hear about our problems,” Ted said vehemently. “He’s asked us a question–how can he get God’s help to stop drinking? We haven’t answered him. If we don’t know the answer, then let’s adjourn this meeting, stop our endless talking, go home and tell our people that the church hasn’t any answer for today. In that case, we better stop being hypocrites and shut the church doors for good.”
There was a shocked silence, but the impassion words had cleared the air. Almost simultaneously, five or six men–including the angry young preacher and the white-haired minister–rose and walked over to Ernie.
Ted knelt in front of the alcoholic. “Ernie, do you believe that Jesus Christ can come into your life and change it?”
The watery eyes looked down, childlike. “Yes…Yes, I do.”
Then we’re going to pray right now, Ernie, that He will do this for you.”
They young minister took both of Ernie’s hand in his. The white-haired preacher stood behind, placed both hands gently on top of the alcoholic’s head. The others stood around in a semicircle, each one with his hands of the stranger.
Ted’s prayer was short, hard-hitting, impassioned. He asked for Christ’s healing power for Ernie, for the forgiveness of sins, for the beginning of a new life.
“Now, Ernie,” Ted said, “you pray too. Just thank God that He has heard you and healed you.”
“I hope so,” Ernie quavered.
“Not hope so. He has! ”
“I—–Well, I’d like to believe that.”
The answer was gentle, but firm. “Ernie, thank Jesus that He was already come into your life.”
The room became completely still. And then in wavery sentences Ernie’s voice reached up to God. “God, I’m a tired, weak old man. I don’t see what use I am to anyone. But I’d like to find the new life they talk about. Please help me.”
It was real. It was vital. Every man in the room knew it, felt it. They had been talking about power. This was power.
Forgotten were train schedules, plane reservations, other obligations. For the first time in two days, real contact had been made with God through one of the least like of persons. The air was charged with emotion. Out from the depths came some of the deep needs of the ministers themselves.
A pastor form New England began it. At first his words seemed unrelated–“I was driving down here several days ago, feeling lonely and apart form God. While crossing over Bear Mountain Bridge, I looked in the ice-clogged river and saw a small boat locked in the ice some distance off shore.
“That boat fascinated me. For my life has been like that. Frozen, isolated, shut within myself. I’m frozen with the fear of other people’s opinions, the fear of not being a success, the fear of not pleasing people.”
Suddenly his eyes filled with tears. “Would you pray for me, that I’ll get thawed out so I can really help people again?”
There was no hesitation now. The men quickly gathered around him. All but Ernie, who hung back, shyly. But the young minister walked over to him.
“Ernie, come on over and pray with the rest of us.”
“Oh no! I couldn’t do that…”
The minister took him by the hand. “Look, Ernie, you’ve received, now you must give. And we need you now.”
So Ernie knelt beside the minister and prayed with the others. The prayer was very simple. And in this room miraculously filled with power, every one of the ministers made his way back to God with a childlike renewal of commitment.
Later the minister from New England was marveling to the young preacher at the turn of events. “As long as I live, I’ll never get over it,” he said. “What had happened to Ernie minutes before was the real thing. The proof was that it was Ernie, with his winy breath in my face, who was God’s channel for transmitting the power. It was like electricity flowing through to me.” And he added with awe in his vice, “Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven…”
And so we enter in, each of us, up our own secret stairs into the most joyous and rewarding relationship of our lives. The good news is that this is not experience meant just for the saints. God welcomes us no matter what our lives have been, no matter what we have done of have failed to do, whether we feel adequate or broken or merely empty.
The secret is simply this: that the Christian life must be lived in the will, not in the emotions; that God regards the decisions and choices of a man’s will as the decisions and choices of the man himself–no matter how contrary his emotions may be. Moreover, when this principle is applied, the emotions must always capitulate to the will.